Course Platforms / Skillshare
Skillshare was founded in New York by Michael Karnjanaprakorn and Malcolm Ong in 2011.
Their mission is "Our purpose is to make the new economy an open meritocracy, where the skills and expertise needed to succeed are available for anyone willing to learn them".
Initially focusing on the creative side of life, they have only recently expanded into more traditional business-focused courses.
Skillshare is one slick platform and is one of the fastest growing online course providers. As of now, they have over 7 million students.
Skillshare offers over 22,000 online courses supported by 5000+ teachers with more courses and teachers being added every day.
They have not experienced the same explosive growth as some other MOOCs because they kept a strong focus on creative courses.
Unlike most other online course providers we have reviewed, Skillshare does not have much in the way of long-form teaching. They have stuck to relatively short, video-based learning with just one final project and zero exams.
They aim to 'make it easy for anyone with experience or skill to upload a class and anyone with a desire to grow to take a class'. They are heavy on the community aspect of taking a class and learning new skills.
While most classes are fairly short in terms of content, the amount of homework required can vary greatly. Skillshare is not a different MOOC and has not yet got into the realm of trying to emulate offline education by offering degrees or paths.
Once you have finished a class you are free to choose where you go next. Like almost all education and content-focused websites Skillshare does have an algorithm that will provide recommendations for you.
As an education platform, Skillshare more closely resembles Youtube than it does Harvard. This is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for, SkillShare could be the perfect tool for you.
Who is Skillshare for
Skillshare is best for people who have a relatively simple skill that they want to learn.
For example: shooting great black and white photographs or learning basic Adobe Photoshop.
Skillshare is a great platform that will allow the right person to develop their skills or just learn new things about the world. However, it is important to know if it is the right online learning platform for you before you get on one knee and make things official.
While Skillshare belongs in the "low commitment" section of the online learning chart that doesn't mean that you should treat it fast and loose. You can join the platform and start a course in under five minutes.
Skillshare provides courses one by one which means you will have to string them together yourself if you want to develop deep knowledge in an area. This is not necessarily a problem but if you are a looking to start a new career or become an expert in a specific area then Skillshare is probably not the platform for you.
As I talk about in our blog post on online course certificates one of the most important distinctions between online courses is whether or not they are accredited.
Skillshare is not accredited by Higher Education institutions (think Universities) or companies looking to promote their tools (think Microsoft & Adobe).
A lack of course accreditation does not mean that you should move on to the next provider. There are several good reasons why should take non-accredited courses.
• An accreditation is not always available or necessary. For example, learning Calligraphy.
• They are not amateur - most courses are given by skilled & experienced professionals
• They cover a much wider area - since there does not need to be a governing body there is no limit on what the course can cover
• They are cheaper - since you don't need to pay said governing body
• They are more flexible - you can learn and develop your skills but at your own pace without worrying about exams and certificates
• They are often more practical. Online Learning courses were developed to imparting practical skills.
Accredited courses rely on building up theoretical knowledge over a long period of time.
If you are looking for courses in more traditionally practical, accredited fields such as Medicine, Legal, Engineering etc then Skillshare is probably not the right fit for you. I recommend you check out our edX & Coursera reviews.
The above points hopefully give you some idea of if the types of courses Skillshare offer are right for you. Next we check out if they are right for your wallet.
Classes and courses
Skillshare began life as a Creative & Business skills focused website. They have recently added Technology and "Lifestyle" courses as the site has grown in popularity and teachers.
While there are relatively few high-level categories on Skillshare there are a wealth of sub-categories. Skillshare covers almost any aspect of creativity and the creative process that you could ask for.
Skillshare does not suffer from a lack of courses.
Skillshare courses are mainly targeted at people who are beginning their journey with classes like Basic Photography, Introduction to Accounting and Get Started with Adobe Photoshop.
Because of the vast range of courses offered and the relatively short length of a course you can also learn as specific skills in an evening and show off to your colleagues the next day.
You could do this with courses like "Lettering in Color: Colorful Brush Lettering with Fudenosuke Colors" or "Easy programming: create your first game on Java".
Here is the official breakdown of the online course types from Skillshare themselves
Skillshare has hundreds of classes and paths for all the topics above. They have categorised them into subcategories to help you find what you are looking for.
Because the classes are taught by amateur teachers I would not recommend taking a Skillshare class to bolster your C.V. It is better used in a current job or to develop skills for your hobby or "side hustle" such as photography or design.
For the best results link your online course to a real-world goal or project
If you are looking to learn a specific skill then you can take a single class that will last anywhere between 15 minutes to 15 hours. Most courses last around 2 or 3 hours.
The courses consist almost entirely of watching videos. At the end of the videos, you create and upload a project for feedback.
Some of the creative and hobby classes on Skillshare cover information that can easily be found on blogs or Youtube. Make sure the course offers structured, in-depth learnings before taking the plunge.
Below you can see the different types and lengths of courses available.
Skillshare classes all follow the same format but there are large differences in what they require from you.
As mentioned before all courses require a project to be completed. These projects can be as long or short as the teacher desires and they come in all shapes and sizes.
For the Introduction to SEO: Tactics and Strategy for Entrepreneurs you will need to optimise an online blog post after learning SEO basics from the videos. For the Mastering Illustrator: 10 Tips & Tricks to Speed Up Your Workflow you will need to create an Illustrator project using the skills you learnt in the course videos.
Skillshare designed the platform so the community of your fellow learners will provide support while you are taking a class and building your project. There is little in the way of teacher support compared to some of the other online course providers.
Many of the teachers on Skillshare treat the platform as a fun diversion from their real jobs. It is difficult to make a living from teaching online so the courses are either a passion project or a way to build a personal brand.
The teachers will probably not respond immediately to questions from you. Not all classes provide supporting documentation or links to further information.
Your best bet at getting answers is from your fellow students. Like Wikipedia, it is good to fact check any answers you are given.
As with all online courses our advice is always to start off slow with a short course or class near to your current level then build up to longer more challenging paths. Remember any courses or class you take will require a lot of time and energy as they may require a fair amount of upfront time watching the videos and reading the documentation followed by homework each week.
Projects on Skillshare
Creating a project is a large part of the learning process at Skillshare.
Every course you take will require you create one. This is because of the strong focus on practical learning. Skillshare really wants you to create something you can take with you to form the start of your next adventure.
Skillshare works on a subscription basis which means you get all the courses you want for $14 a month or $8 a month if you sign up for a year. Bear in mind that while a year is a substantial saving it is also a big commitment.
Skillshare offers a number of perks and bonuses to try and entice people to try a paid class.
They also often run promotions such as 3 months for $1 so it is definitely worth being patient and waiting for a deal if you are not in a huge hurry.
To help you get started and while you wait for your deal you can also register for free.
This gives you access to all the free courses available on Skillshare. Be aware that although there are over 1000 free courses available the quality is often much lower than a paid course because people don´t generally like to work for free!
As an added bonus, you do not need a credit card to sign up for a free Skillshare account.
I highly encourage you to give it a go. You will not be risking very much and it allows you to have a look at all the courses and get started on your elearning journey risk-free.
How to take a course
As you will have discovered from reading this review, taking a Skillshare class is a relatively light touch experience.
Each course starts off with a high-level introduction video. If you decide to take the plunge you simply wait for the real lessons to begin.
The videos follow a similar format to a Youtube Playlist. They will play one after the after until the end of the section or course.
Most of the screen is devoted to the current video with notes & comments underneath. On the right-hand side, you can see the list of course videos.
It is better to expand the video so it takes the whole screen to prevent getting distracted.
Skillshare Visual Thinking Course Overview page. Loggedin view
Students can write "Notes" on a video. These notes allow you to mark important points in the video or jot down your thoughts on a particular point.
Some of your fellow students are likely to take advantage of this functionality although it is likely that you will wish that they hadn't as the quality and usefulness of the public Notes are generally quite low.
We do not recommend adding notes to videos. Once you move onto the next video or course all the information is lost.
Save your notes in a Google Doc to keep them all in one place
Navigating the site
Workshops are a new feature from Skillshare. They are similar to 'Programmes' and 'Paths' offered by other MOOCs and course providers.
Ultimately, a Workshop is simply a collection of classes bundled together and given a deadline.
It is not clear how well the list has been curated and the time limit seems arbitrary. Workshops are something Skillshare will, and should, build on in the future. Currently, they are lacking in love and useful functionality.
It is even hard to get a decent screenshot of them. Below is an example of the short story workshop from Skillshare.
If you click into it you would find a list of 8 classes around story writing. The classes are well reviewed and seem to build on each other but the projects do not link up and there is some overlap in the content.
Benefits of Skillshare Curated Paths
Criticism aside, if you are new to an area, a curated list of class suggestions can be very valuable.
Skillshare is attempting to differentiate itself from the classes offered on Youtube and providing a clear learning path is something that the best online course providers are already doing.
Workshops are supposed to be taken by large numbers of people at the same time, a strong community can be helpful in getting taking your skills to the next level.
A community and deadlines have been shown to help alleviate the motivation and procrastination problems that come with online classes. You will have a time limit, teacher encouragement and some social pressure from your fellow learners.
These things can all help make sure you finish what you start. This is not as easy as it sounds in the world of online learning.
Most students dive into the wrong courses or start a course with poor preparation. This leads to boredom, low conversion rates and a lot of time wasted.
To avoid these pitfalls check out our Students guide to getting the most out of online courses and learning.
Do not underestimate the difficulty of learning online alone
Skillshare class discussions and peer support
Skillshare works very hard to create a community of learnings and get its students to help each other out. This is very common in the MOOC and elearning world as online educators try and emulate offline ones.
As with other course providers, the results are mixed.
You will receive some nice praise from fellow students on your project assignments and can learn from them as they ask & answer questions.
Do not expect a great wealth of information or informed debate in the discussion section of a class. Mainly it is the teacher or Skillshare moderator reminding everyone about an upcoming deadline.
The classes with good ratings will have active and valuable discussion boards. this is mainly because the teacher is engaged with the students and has created a very user-friendly course.
Skillshare class discussion page. Loggedin view
Skillshare My Classes section
Finally, we will look at the 'My Classes' section of Skillshare.
Somewhat predictably this section is where you find your classes.
Since Skillshare is an all you can learn, subscription-based provider, you will almost inevitably end up with a lot of saved and half-finished classes.
Taking a lot of courses is no bad thing and Skillshare have provided robust search and filter options to help you pick up where you left off.
Hopefully, this review has everything you need to know to get started learning with Skillshare.
If you think anything is missing or would like to know more let us know and we will be happy to help!